Just about everyone I’ve talked to in the last week has bemoaned the fact that summer is nearly over. The weather this year has not been kind to us on the North Shore. After the brutally cold winter that seemed would never end, things never really warmed up. We only had a few days of hot weather. More than once I’ve felt sorry for the folks hiking and paddling and sleeping in tents.
There is serenity and splendor in our backcountry, but there is sometimes a price to pay. I hope everyone who has enjoyed rough camping this summer—the summer that barely was—brought plenty of layers to stay warm.
In my own forays into the forest in the last week, I’ve already seen signs of autumn. Despite a short string of bright sunny days and slightly higher temps, the signs of fall are here. There are bright patches of red and orange interspersed with the brilliant green.
It seems like summer arrived and departed in the same week. I recall feeling this way as fall approached when I was growing up. I remember luxuriating in warm weather just before school started. I remember days spent swimming with cousins and friends in little pools in Rosebush Creek, which is now called Fall Creek, but will forever be Rosebush in my mind. I remember riding bikes down County Road 7, weaving in and out of the dotted white centerline—once we reached the paved section at Rosebush Creek. I remember roasting marshmallows and watching fireflies while sitting around a campfire—just days before that dreaded first day of school.
I shouldn’t say dreaded though, because truly it wasn’t all that bad. There was always sadness at giving up the freedom of summer. Back-to-school meant no more sleeping in as long as I wanted. No more bikes or hikes to a cousin’s house to hang out, no more playing on a tire swing or climbing around in my grandfather’s old barn. No more lying in the tall grass imagining pictures in the puffy clouds. No more unlimited TV watching.
No, back-to-school meant more structure. It meant going to bed earlier and getting up earlier than I liked. It meant school lunches instead of peanut butter sandwiches or Lipton chicken noodle soup. It meant sitting still and paying attention and worst of all—mathematics! And it meant homework, further cutting into time to enjoy being outside—or watching my favorite television shows.
But along with the loss of freedom came the excitement of a new year and a new wardrobe. I remember being pleased with new dresses and shoes, but I most vividly recall my delight in a particular pair of jeans when I was entering the seventh grade. They were denim bell-bottoms, of course, but had a strip of ticking down the side. They may sound “lame” to the current generation, but they were the height of cool in my seventh-grade mind.
Returning to school was also wonderful because it meant seeing the many friends that I hadn’t seen much of—or at all—over the summer. It was nice to see everyone and to giggle and gossip between classes, at lunch, and to the teachers’ dismay, when we were supposed to be listening. Another great memory—of seventh-grade again, was when I reconnected with one of my best friends, Janie and saw that she was wearing the same cool blue jeans with the stripe down the side.
In addition to the fun of a few new outfits and renewed friendships, was the joy of new notebooks, pens, and of course a shiny new Trapper Keeper. It didn’t take long to fill the notebooks with scribbles and notes and eraser marks, but I always loved all those blank pages full of possibility.
Although I would never have admitted it at that time. That would not have been cool. Just as I would never have admitted that I enjoyed some of my classes. Math was always a struggle for me, but I enjoyed science and social studies. And I adored English, history and art classes. Book reviews for extra credit? That wasn’t homework; that was downright fun.
So all in all, school was not so bad. It was where I learned not only the educational basics, but that I could get through anything including math–if only with a C. It was where I learned that I loved to write. It was where I learned the importance of being organized and where I began my never-ending quest to become so.
It was where I made lifelong friendships that I still treasure. The Class of ’75 “kids” are meeting for lunch soon as we do the first Tuesday of every month.
Perhaps the worst part of the school year was heading indoors on the waning days of warm weather. Labor Day was the last big fling for all of us, as I’m sure it is for the teachers and students today. Have a safe and happy weekend everyone. Welcome back to schoo
***** ***** *****
The larger the island of
knowledge, the longer the
shoreline of wonder.
Ralph W. Sockman